Two dead at Prophet Mohammed cartoon event in US
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
A police officer directs the evacuation of attendees of the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, after a shooting outside the Curtis Culwell Center where the event was held in Garland, Texas May 3, 2015. REUTERS PhotoTwo gunmen were shot dead May 3 and a security guard wounded outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas, authorities said, as a bomb squad investigated the gunmen's car.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) organized the event in a suburb of Dallas, featuring far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has been outspoken against Muslims.
Police said two men drove up to the conference center in Garland, Texas, and began shooting at a security guard.
"Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed," the city of Garland said in a statement.
The security guard suffered injuries that were "not life-threatening," the statement said.
Wilders has also long been targeted by Islamists because of his extreme views on Islam.
"I am shocked. I just spoke for half an hour about the cartoons, Islam and freedom of speech and I had just left the premises," Wilder told AFP in an email.
"This is an attack on the liberties of all of us!" Wilders wrote. He added that he was safe with police.
The identities of the shooters has yet to be confirmed, but the SITE Intelligence Group reported that an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighter claimed on Twitter that the shooting was carried out by two pro-ISIL individuals.
In a series of tweets and links, a jihadist named as Abu Hussain AlBritani, which SITE said was British ISIL fighter Junaid Hussain, claimed that "2 of our brothers just opened fire" at the Prophet Muhammad exhibition in Texas.
"They Thought They Was Safe In Texas From The Soldiers of The Islamic State," added the tweet.
About 200 people were inside the event, said local police spokesman Police spokesman Joe Harn.
Police said they suspect the gunmen's vehicle may contain an "incendiary device" and a bomb squad is on the scene.
"The bodies are still outside near the car. Once that car is cleared then we'll take care of the bodies," he told reporters.
The process of checking the car for explosives could take several hours, he added.
AFDI offered a $10,000 prize for the winner of the cartoon contest that was billed as a "free speech" event.
Organizers said extra security was at the event due to the general risk of an attack.
AFDI co-founder and political activist Pamela Geller called the shootings a "war on free speech."
"What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?" she wrote on her website.
"The war is here."
Many Muslims find depictions of the Prophet Mohammed offensive and such cartoons have triggered violent protests, including when the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published 12 satirical cartoons in 2005, triggering deadly protests in some Muslim countries.
Cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed were also published in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, where gunmen killed 12 people in January.